Leveling the playing field
November 9, 2012 by
Categories: Acceptance, Human, Therapy

“Compassion is not a relationship between the healer and the wounded. It’s a relationship between equals. Only when we know our own darkness well can we be present with the darkness of others. Compassion becomes real when we recognize our shared humanity.”– Pema Chödrön

I came across this quote quite a while ago and I recently found it again in another book. It was a good refresher for me to consider all of the relationships I have, their context, and to what extent I view the relationship as equal.

Throughout my childhood, my parents strove to help me view myself as not being above others. While to them in my adolescence, they probably felt like it never sank in, I can definitely see the influence it has on me today. For a long time as a therapist, I strove to maintain the feminist principal of balance of power and reducing the stance of authority. Working on this as a therapist also had the effect of practicing it in all aspects of my life. Most recently, I have come to practice many principals from social constructionism which also levels out the playing field between people so that they move toward becoming equals. I say move toward, because I don’t know that becoming equals is a possibility given our current society.

At any rate, I think I can speak for all of us at CI that this quote is one of the reasons we contribute to this site. Speaking for myself again, I believe that true compassion can only happen when we accept and explore our own personal darkness. As a human, I have been through very dark times in my life and even now there are dark places within myself. Sometimes these places can really bring me down and I struggle with connection with others and myself.

Image by msaluste

I have not ever admitted to being perfect, but I do try to strive to live what I believe. I believe that it is ok to have our shadier selves. Knowing and accepting these dark parts within me keeps me human. Although my dark parts may be different from others, we share a common bond by having those dark parts. Those parts that would be terrifying if they were revealed. Those parts that are painful, shameful, and sometimes reveal the worst that humanity has to offer (sometimes at no fault of our own). It is sharing these common bonds and experiences of being human that allow for pure compassion. The kind of compassion that brings healing for each in the relationship–the relationship between equals.

I have had conversations with clients before about the therapeutic relationship. I am convinced that the most healing relationship takes place between equals– not as a therapist who has his life together and bestows wisdom and interventions that fix those with whom I work. Both as a therapist, educator, and in my personal life (as I side note, I strive to not put too much distance between those roles), I try to take the position that I am human and accept myself and others not despite of our shortcomings, but because of them.

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